Thursday, December 18, 2008

"I'm gonna make him penetrate, I'm gonna make him be a girl..."

It seems like a century ago. I listened to the radio on my way to high school, a Catholic high school, a Catholic all-boys high school (if you need to diagnose any of my ailments, please begin there), since there was no better way than to start the day with rebellious rock n’ roll emanating from a small portable radio.

And lest you think the rock was not rebellious, or at least packaged to sound so, let me just me mention that the station being listened to on this particular morning was WHBI-FM, a local oddity that used to rent itself out to foreign programmers, but also had two “punk” programs that played the best and weirdest punk and new wave records — the two featured DJs (a guy named Phil Barry and a Brit called "Scratchy") were clearly into freaking out the listener, and I remember hearing the beloved Barnes and Barnes’ “Cemetery Girls” (their snappy ode to necrophilia) as well as a truly creepy story-song about kids picking on a fat girl at school (all this in the late-evening hours, listening on a transistor, or on my way to prison… er, school).

The morning I remember in particular the song below was playing. Yes, the video you’re about to watch is hopelessly silly, the performer looks ridiculous — plus I was stunned and amused to see his song punctuated with wonderfully cheesy German “saucy” comedy.

Just imagine, though, the song hitting a teenager, back then on a crappy little radio. The melody (actually, the backing track, if I’m not mistaken) stolen from the greatest French “New Wave” tune of all time, actually a tongue-in-cheek punk parody of sorts, the immortal Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi” which can be seen and heard here.

This rip-off English song had a nasty little homoerotic lyric that absolutely freaked the shit out of my mother when she heard it come out of the radio (she loved William B. Williams, as I did, but hey, a kid’s gotta grow up some time). She told me I should turn it off, but much to her credit, didn’t shut the radio off herself (plus the song was already just about over by the time she registered how “dirty” it was).

I know this entire event reeks of a past time before teens were all-knowing and exposed to just about everything under the sun. I guess I’m happy to have lived through those innocent moments, and to have experienced, through WHBI’s “punk” music programs and WBAI’s amazing, still radical free-form shows, a time when regular old commercial radio could be challenging, weird, upsetting, and yes, just plain “dirty” for its era. What followed thereafter (Stern, “O&A,” and the rest…) was all pathetic compared to some insane dude singing about getting head from another guy during the breakfast hour….


Graeme said...

Hi there,

I just had to correct this post - it was Elton Motello who wrote the original music (and whose band recorded the original backing) for Bertand's "Ca plane pour moi" not the other way around.

More info:

Media Funhouse said...

Fascinating stuff. It was always preached the other way 'round (by those actually even knew there were two songs). The article doesn't seem to explain how Elton/Alan's track could simply be lifted and used by his drummer as PB--the European rights to the song were owned by the same folks? Curioser and curioser...

P.S. At least the German sketch actors stayed comfortably out of the fray.

Herb Whiteside said...

It was WHBI "real radio" Unfortunately Phil Barry is serving Federal time for a ponzi scheme, he kept the whbi, then wnwk going for a while. Scratch was Birry Myers and has a credit on the Clash's london calling album, Tom Leykis who became a stern like radio guy out in LA was also on the roster...